Change must be part of state’s new day

Published 6:00 am Monday, January 19, 2004

The Haley Barbour administration officially began Tuesdaymorning, and a clue to the path he hopes to lead this state wasoutlined in his fourteen-minute inaugural speech.

Barbour addressed a crowd of thousands on a cool overcastJanuary day that some could say reflected the state’s budgetsituation. Then, almost on cue as the ceremonies concluded, theclouds parted and sun shone on a new day for Mississippi.

The question for some will be a definition of that new day.

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His supporters will rally around his abilities to pull togetheropposing factions to elevate the state and bring in more jobs.Others, fearful of his Republican conservatism, will see the newday as overcast where government spending falls victim to thebudget axe.

Barbour was conciliatory and inclusionary in his first statewideaddress. While light on the details, the state’s 63rd governorwasclear on his vision of the importance of unity and cohesion acrossthe state to correct our problems and place the state’s economy inits rightful place in the center of the fastest growing region ofthe country.

A tripping point on the unity and cohesion may be his commentson the changing world we live in today.

“Sometimes change is difficult,” the governor said. “Changesthat may be for the general good can hurt some people. Change thatultimately produces positive results my have some short-termnegative effects.”

Barbour enters this new day in Mississippi history filled withhopes and dreams for a better future for this state. He also entersit with full knowledge that major problems exist and that hissuccess rides on his ability to pull the legislative forcestogether to form a coalition of support to solve theseproblems.

He and the Legislature face an almost $700 million shortage inwhat funds are available and what needs to be spent. That’s $700million that can either be found in new tax revenues or in newbudget cuts. That’s $700 million that represents a need to changethe way state government is run.

With a tax increase doubtful due to election pledges by Barbour,Lt. Governor Amy Tuck, House Speaker Billy McCoy and a host ofother legislators, cutting the state’s spending is the only othersolution.

Areas to watch include Education, Corrections, and Medicaid, forthey hold a large portion of the state budget.

Barbour inherits additional education cost in the form of thefinal phases of a six-year teacher pay raise that are very popular.He inherits an ongoing struggle with the state’s prison systemwhere we spend more per person to incarcerate than we do toeducate. And he inherits a Medicaid system that is rife withbudgetary problems.

The governor is hanging his hat on job creation, but the”change” he referred to in his address may become the coat rack ofhis administration. If he can change the spending ways of stategovernment while reigning in taxes, he will have accomplished alot.

Change is tough, but change is necessary.

Write to Bill Jacobs at P.O. Box 551, Brookhaven, Miss.39602, or send e-mail to